Green Energy Truths—report-from-the-front-lines-of-vermont/article_da50ba64-ad8a-545c-b361-6a431b8dcc27.html

Report From the Front Lines of Vermont

Michael Moore’s documentary “Planet of the Humans” by Jeff Gibbs and Ozzie Zehner has stirred up a frenzy of criticism from climate change activists, a Rolling Stone rebuttal by founder Bill McKibben, and demands by filmmaker Josh Fox to take the movie down

I am motivated to write from the trenches of Vermont, where some of the film’s footage is centered, in response to the strident accusations that “Planet of the Humans” is causing tremendous damage to the climate change movement by casting renewables – wind, solar and biomass – in negative terms full of inaccuracies.

“Planet of the Humans” was too kind to renewable energy.  It is an ugly business.  Greed and political power combine with renewable energy to destroy the environment and the lives of the people who live nearby.

After the video’s release, I received a critique originating from Vermont by someone I do not know stating, “My guess is that the group he is walking with in this section is Annette Smith’s Vermonters for a Clean Environment, which has done more harm to Vermont’s transition off of fossil fuels to renewable energy than everyone else combined.”  Yes, that’s me, the thorn in the side of renewable developers.  No, I was not in the film. 

In 1999, I founded an organization to fight a natural gas power plant and pipeline project supported by then-Governor Howard Dean.  Living off-grid with solar, batteries and a generator, I believed solar was our energy future.  With facts, information and grassroots organizing, we ran the gas guys out of the state. 

In 2009, an industrial wind project was proposed in my county. Numerous people on both sides reached out asking us to get involved. 

To my surprise, wind energy development, especially on top of mountains, raised numerous issues. I had seen the eleven 196’ tall 600 kW wind turbines built in 1996 in southern Vermont and thought they were beautiful.  I went with a friend whose farm hosted SolarFest to see a New York project with fifty 420’ tall 2.5 mW wind turbines.  We talked to a farmer who hosted some of the turbines. We talked to neighbors who wished they hadn’t signed the lease because the noise was horrible after being told there would be no noise.  On the ride home we agreed that what we saw was “very disturbing.” 

The next ten years blur together as Vermonters elected a governor committed to building as much renewable energy everywhere possible. 

Governor Peter Shumlin, Sen. Bernie Sanders, and Bill McKibben shut down conversations about impacts to communities and the natural environment because “we do not have time for that conversation.” At a Bernie Sanders press conference, we were compared to creationists.  Gov. Shumlin called us “cave people.”  

Now, thanks to “Planet of the Humans”, we are finally having that conversation.  

The former state naturalist, a climate change scientist, a wildlife habitat specialist, and a former commissioner of fish and wildlife came together to educate the public about our mountains’ values for climate change adaptation, with a series of roundtable discussions called Peak Keepers about the importance of mountains for wildlife, water, and forests. 

When the Lowell Mountains were being sacrificed for the wind project developed by Green Mountain Power — subsidiary of Energir, 30% owned by fossil fuel pipeline developer Enbridge — Vermonters hiked up the other side of the mountain to see for themselves what “green energy” looks like. 

Don and Shirley Nelson’s farm bordered the wind project for a mile and a half.  For 50 years, the Nelsons never kept anyone off their ~600 acres. They permitted people to hike up. GMP was not happy. With no notice to the Nelsons, GMP got a Temporary Restraining Order and sued them, prohibiting everyone from going within 1000 feet of the wind project site. Police with dogs patrolled and arrested people, including a reporter.  At least 20 people were arrested on different occasions, some intentionally. 

A Vermonter invited Bill McKibben to come see for himself.  He declined. 

After the wind project was built, the Nelsons got sick from the wind project’s acoustic emissions and had no choice but to sell to GMP.  It came with a gag order so Don and Shirley cannot talk about their experience.  They were collateral damage.  Many other neighbors of industrial wind projects have shared the same fate

As more wind projects were proposed in Vermont, I watched people lose their innocence as they, like me, thought wind and solar energy were going to save the planet.  The more we learned, the more opposed we became. 

The film neglects the societal damage caused by wind energy.  Wind developers’ playbook requires dividing communities. It is guaranteed that opposition will arise, so they try to create a proponent group to combat the opponents.  Even areas where wind projects have failed are left with animosities that will take generations to heal. We have seen companies offer to write letters for proponents to send to the local papers and try to buy votes.  

We have grieved the loss of people who have died deaths of despair after the mountains they loved were destroyed or their homes became uninhabitable after the wind projects become operational.  

In 2016, I felt the wrath of the wind and solar industry when someone filed a complaint with Vermont’s Attorney General alleging I was practicing law without a license by assisting people in participating in the regulatory process for energy projects at the Public Utility Commission.  It was a criminal investigation. Newspaper editorials and Green Mountain Power came to my defense.  I hired a criminal defense attorney who wrote a letter to the AG pointing out that “the AG’s office is not the surrogate of the politically frustrated.”  The AG dropped it, and an attorney who previously sent a letter telling me he represented a wind and solar developer admitted he filed the complaint, but claimed he did it on his own.  

Industrial solar is no better. A wealthy developer seeking to cut more than 100 acres of forest filed lawsuits against a town, neighbors, state agencies, and even the governor while proclaiming he is saving the planet and anyone who stands in his way is “signing the death warrant of many Americans.” 

This year, biomass plant owner Engie came to the Vermont legislature seeking subsidies to enable continuing burning forests for a small amount of electricity that drives up rates for Vermonters.  The state’s leading environmental group Vermont Natural Resources Council, with Bill McKibben on their Advisory Committee, supported it. Bill McKibben did not weigh in.  Apparently he prefers to maximize his own carbon footprint by traveling the planet lecturing people about how they have to reduce their carbon footprint. 

Try to talk to Bill McKibben about solar and wind energy.  He treats it as a personal attack as though his feeling are hurt.  He can endlessly rattle off statistics about climate change.  But, when asked the question about who funds, he acted stupid, or as though it wasn’t relevant. 

I looked up’s 990s and learned that in 2017 the organization had $19 million in funding.  Over a five year period, the organization’s funding was $66 million. It is reasonable to expect Bill McKibben to know its source. 

Please do not feel sorry for Bill McKibben.  He and his enablers doth protest too much. 

Yes, “Planet of the Humans” was too kind to the renewablists.  It is all about the money.  “Climate emergency” activists and their funders are doing a lot of damage to the planet by focusing only on CO2, proclaiming wind and solar will save the planet, distracting us from the overarching issues of pollution, population and over-consumption that are killing our planet.

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Testimony about Act 250 in Vermont House, Legislature 2020

For Documents and Agendas, see House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee website

Tuesday, January 7, 2020
1:00 PM
Act 250
Introductions, Narrative Review
Ellen Czajkowski, Legislative Counsel, Office of Legislative Council
Peter Walke, Deputy Secretary, Agency of Natural Resources
Brian Shupe, Executive Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council
Chris Cochran, Director of Community Planning & Revitalization, Housing and Community Development

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
1:00 PM
Act 250
Administration Proposals
Matthew Chapman, General Counsel, Agency of Natural Resources
Jon Groveman, Policy and Water Program Director, Vermont Natural Resources Council
Chris Cochran, Director of Community Planning & Revitalization, Housing and Community Development
Peter Walke, Deputy Secretary, Agency of Natural Resources
Billy Coster, Director of Planning and Policy, Agency of Natural Resources
Greg Boulbol, General Counsel, Natural Resources Board
3:00 PM
Act 250
Annette Smith, Executive Director, Vermonters for a Clean Environment

Tuesday, January 14, 2020
3:45 PM
Act 250
Slate Quarries, Mapping
Diane Snelling, Chair, Natural Resources Board
Ryan Knox, GIS Professional, Agency of Natural Resources
Chris Smid, New England Slate Company
Craig Markcrow, Owner and President, Vermont Structural Slate Company
Jon Hill, Owner, Green Stone Slate

Continue reading
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Vt. Senate Committee Looks At Allegations That CSWD Dumped Glass Instead Of Recycling It


CSWD Glass Samples

Vt. Senate Committee Looks At Allegations That CSWD Dumped Glass Instead Of Recycling It


The state is investigating the Chittenden Solid Waste District for allegedly dumping glass it collects from northern Vermont instead of recycling the material as required.

The state put the district on notice last year that it had allegedly violated environmental laws. The allegations resurfaced Wednesday in a Senate committee; Chittenden Solid Waste District officials say they have not done anything wrong.

John Brabant was a state regulator on waste issues for 25 years and now works for Vermonters for a Clean Environment, an activist group. Continue reading

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5G — Is it Safe?


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Testimony by VCE to House Natural Resources, Fish & Wildlife Committee, Feb. 14, 2019

Click on each link to watch or read the presentation

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Posted in Act 250, ANR, Blittersdorf, Deerfield, DPS, Energy Planning, GMNF, Grafton Windham, Green Mountain Power, Irasburg Wind, Lowell, PSB, PUC, sheffield, Solar, Swanton, USFS, VCE, Water, Wetlands, Wind Energy | Leave a comment

Where Does Your Garbage Go?

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Where Does Your Garbage Go?

As a young man I used to bring my worst trash to Charlie Nadeau’s Dump in Coventry in northern Orleans County.   The 13 acre unlined dump was located on the edge of an extensive wetland and the Black River which form the headwaters of Lake Memphremagog flowing north into Quebec.  I would return home thinking, “I am helping to poison a river.”  I was part of the problem.    

Fast-forward fifty years. We have become a throw-away society. The waste stream is larger, and carries new compounds of toxic chemicals, harmful to human health, which persist in our environment, unable to break down. Plastics are ubiquitious. Our understanding of how to handle and recycle waste has also changed.  What has not changed in Vermont is the location of the Coventry site which has morphed into a 78 acre mega-landfill operated by Casella Waste Systems, Inc. Continue reading

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Vermont Commission on Act 250 Meeting Videos and Audio

Click on the date to watch the video. All links go to video except where audio is noted.

Vermont Leg. Commission on Act 250 Mtg re Public Process, 6 15 18, 2:03:23

Commission on Act 250 meeting, 10 11 2018, morning. 2:44:33

Commission on Act 250 meeting, 10 11 2018, afternoon session, 2:12:47

Excerpt:Act 250 Commission meeting hearing 10 11 2018 Bruce Post, Public Comment, 5:54

Vermont Commission on Act 250, 10 26 2018, morning portion, 2:27:48

Vt. Commission on Act 250, 10 26 2018, afternoon portion, 2:01:51

Excerpt: Vermont Commission on Act 250, Bruce Post, 10 26 2018, 30:51

Vermont Legislative Commission on Act 250 11 8 2018, morning, 2:21:20

Vermont Legislative Commission on Act 250, 11 8 2018, afternoon, 2:02:36

AUDIO: Commission on Act 250 11.15.2018 01.mp3, 3:43:40

Commission on Act 250 11.15.2018 02.mp3, 31:36

Legislative Commission on Act 250, Nov. 30, 2018, 4:30,39

Act 250 Commission 12 7 2018, morning, 2:13:53

Act 250 Commission 12 7 2018, afternoon, 3:03:43

Act 250 Commission 12 14 2018, morning, 1:56:19

Act 250 Commission 12 14 2018, afternoon, 3:13:42





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Recharging the Debate on Large Hydro: Northeast Megadams Resistance

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Recharging the Debate on Large Hydro: Northeast Megadams Resistance

by Alexis Lathem

One of the longest rivers in Quebec, the incomparably beautiful Romaine River wound its way through unbroken boreal forests and wetlands teeming with life, plummeting over countless rapids in torrents of white water – among them the spectacular 90-foot Grandes Chutes – before emptying into the St. Lawrence near the Mingan Archipelago National Park. The Romaine was one of the last free-flowing Atlantic salmon rivers on the north shore of the St Lawrence. That was until Hydro Quebec began construction on its 8 billion dollar, 1,500 MW Romaine project in 2010 – the same year that Vermont renewed its long-term contract with Hydro Quebec. Intended entirely for export, Hydro Quebec’s only contract for this power is with Vermont.

But who in Vermont has even heard of the Romaine? Continue reading

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The State Of Slate: Why Reopened Vermont Quarries Are Causing Concern

The State Of Slate: Why Reopened Vermont Quarries Are Causing Concern


Vermont Edition

Vermont is the country’s top slate producer. But re-opening and expanding old quarries has caused worry in neighboring communities.

Live call-in discussion: From a tiny area along the New York border called the Slate Valley, Vermont is the leading producer of slate in the country. And as old quarries are reopened or expanded, the rub between quarry owners and neighboring homeowners has gotten tense. We’ll take a look at today’s slate industry in Vermont.

Joining us to discuss the issues surrounding slate mining and the industry’s Act 250 exemption are:

Broadcast live on Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2018 at noon; rebroadcast at 7 p.m.


Poultney, Wells, NY Slate April 20, 2014…

Slate Quarries, Aerial Flyover, July 12, 2014…

Slate Quarries in Vermont, Oct. 2, 2014…

Slate Quarry Flyover, July 12, 2014

VCE Presentation on Slate Quarries, Vermont House Fish, Wildlife and Water Resources Committee, April 29, 2015, or

POWERPOINT PRESENTATION to HFWW (without videos), April 29, 2015…

Poultney couple sues quarry companies, Jan. 29, 2018

Poultney family settles quarry lawsuit, Oct. 26, 2018 https://www.rutlandherald.c…

Act 250 exemption key in quarry-homeowner disputes, oct. 31, 2018 https://www.rutlandherald.c…

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VCE’s Public Comment in Response to Anonymous Letter to PUC

November 27, 2018

Cases No. 18-0974-TF, 18-2850-TF, 18-3160-PET, 18-1633-PET

Public Comment in Response to Anonymous Letter to PUC

Vermonters for a Clean Environment submits this public comment in four cases related to Green Mountain Power’s rates and regulation plans. VCE appreciates that the PUC posted the letter and set a deadline for parties to comment by the end of business today. VCE is not a party to any of the four cases.

VCE also received the anonymous letter in the mail.[1] If the PUC had not posted it and asked for comments from parties, it was our intention to post it as a public comment in GMP’s rate and regulation cases and offer our comments. Though the letter was sent anonymously and the author is unknown, the information it contains is worthy of public discussion. Continue reading

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